Knit’s my Life: The Wire-Headed Cord-Making Lady…

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Knits my Life

In which I attempt to write about my life in stitches

The Wire-Headed Cord-Making Lady…

Today was starting out as one of the worst days of my childhood. Ever. Officially. I had to go to the dentist. There were holes in two of my back teeth and they had to be filled. In the true spirit of the utilitarian 1980’s British National Health Service, the dentist deemed that only adult teeth could pain and therefore young children did not need anaesthetic. You can imagine how that felt.

My beautiful kind mother, who has a terrible phobia of dentists herself, managed to drag me there, holding my hand. I remember the awful chair, the horrible looking instruments, the light that seemed to land upon me like a UFO and blinded my eyes. On the ceiling was an aerial photograph of our town. I stared at it the whole way through, memorising the streets, picking out our house, walking my way to school and following the route while the awfulness seemed to last forever. In the end it was done and we poured out of the door, both relieved to escape, into the fresh late autumn air, my mouth tasting of metal and weirdness.

Set free, my mother turned to me with the biggest smile and told me how brave I had been. Then she told me that because I had done so well, we would go to a shop that sold toys and I could choose myself a small present. This day was suddenly turning around!

Now, excited and happy, we walked our way there, past the bakery full of seasonal goodies, meringues that looked like snowmen and biscuits topped with cheerful sugar Father Christmas faces (which we diligently ignored, in order to avoid a repeat of the tooth incident), past the old-fashioned shoe shop, which had a motorised and continuously walking wooden cut-out of a lady wearing high heels in the window, and was home to a Victorian style dappled rocking horse I was allowed to ride on whenever we went for new shoes. The orange leaves rustled under our feet, the wind blew, my mouth tingled and the sun came out, light shining in my eyes again, but this time in a good way.

bag charm collage

We reached our destination and bells tinkled merrily as we pushed open the door. So much to choose from! Would I get the plastic articulated snake? No. I remembered my Nan was terrified of snakes and I wouldn’t be able to play with it with her, and everything had to be taken to Nanny’s to show her in those days. It was a rule in my head. Maybe the yo-yo, or…no…drawing things. I loved creating pictures; I was thrilled when I created anything. But then I found it. The ultimate dental present. There in a box, a cheerful smiling funny looking wooden painted lady, wearing a strange wire metal crown on her head.

I asked my mother what the lady was. She told me that it was something for knitting. I thought this very strange. I knew what knitting looked like, my Nan was often showing me how to knit, I could knit a little already, and I knew that none of us, not Nanny, not Great Nan and not myself had ever made any of our knitting with a dolly. My mother explainedĀ this was called “French Knitting”. Sounded exotic. The wooden painted face smiled at me again (maybe in a slightly Parisian way…) and the deal was done. That was it. I would have the knitting dolly, and we would have a great time together. I had decided it would be so! We walked home, me clutching my new treasure.

French Knitter drawing

Once home, we opened the box and out she came. She was even shinier and more smiley than she had looked in her package. Out too came a little stick, some red wool, and a black and white photocopied instruction page, with diagrams, which I duly sniffed. I loved the smell of paper and ink, still do. My mother offered to help me start off my French knitting, but I refused. I was going to do this myself.

I studied the diagram. Loop it here, loop it there, loop it almost everywhere, wind it around and pick up stick….get it wrong….re-study the diagram and start again. Several times! Eventually I cracked it. Red wool moving up and over, round and round, keeping on, keeping on, wondering what will emerge. A cord started to appear out of the bottom of the dolly, how delightful! I got faster and faster at the motions and the cord grew and grew. I realised that if I gave the cord a tug it worked better and I would be able to see my progress quicker. Loop, pick, tug, tug! After a while, I had a whole long string of beautiful new red cord.

And absolutely no idea what to do with it…!

DSCN2693

Here’s my autumn leaf bag charm, inspired by this little story (it uses i-cord!). If you want to make one too, click here for theĀ free pattern.

4 Responses

  1. Deann

    Yikes! No anesthesia?? No wonder you were afraid of dentists! I am glad the knitting dolly was able to pick up your spirits. <3

    • Ellen

      I wish I still had her! I don’t know what happened to it, but it got lost over the years I guess. I now have one that looks like a bee, but he’s plastic and not quite the same!

  2. Medieval Dentistry how awful!!! You were indeed brave Ellen and deserved your knit dolly!

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